The Four Horsemen of Marriage Twice Over
The Bible is full of vivid imagery, especially the book of Revelation. In chapter six of Revelation “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” give us a picture of death and destruction. Within relationships we have all experienced certain factors, or horsemen, that lead to destruction. What are some of those factors in a marriage that wreak havoc and lead to wounding and eventually divorce?
Psychologist John Gottman has identified the “four horsemen” in marriage that lead to destruction as:
1. Criticism, which is more than just complaining because criticism attacks a person’s character;
2. Contempt. This is more damaging than criticism because it seeks to deeply wound a person’s intrinsic value as a person;
3. Defensiveness. Once we’ve been exposed to contempt usually defensiveness sets in. Defensiveness pushes back against character attacks and further undermines honest listening;
4. Stonewalling. Just like ‘hitting the wall’ in running tests a runners resolve to keep going, a person may give up in a marriage and become a wall. Total withdrawal stops all listening and responding. When stonewalling occurs habitually in a marriage it is said to be barely on life support.
The reason that I personally find Gottman’s work so compelling is the prophetic power of his model. He has 95% accuracy in predicting whether a marriage will stay together after observing the relationship for only 15 minutes!
Take a moment to survey your significant relationship, be it marital or otherwise. Are you exhibiting any of Gottman’s four horsemen?
Tommy Nelson is a great Bible teacher from Denton Bible Church. In his exposition of the Song of Solomon, he crafts his own set of “four horsemen” of marriage. According to Nelson, the four patterns of behavior leading to marital destruction are:
1. Sin. When romance dies it usually begins because one or the other has caused pain and not repented, or there has been a lack of genuine forgiveness.
2. Age. If we focus only on our external appearances, our marriage becomes morally bankrupt, built solely on superficiality.
3. Laziness. When we get in a rut we take for granted the power of what first drew us to our soul mate to begin with. Routines slowly sap the excitement until you live with a roommate, not a lover.
4. Forgetfulness. All too often we forget that our spouse is a gift from God, a unique creation in all the world. Instead of being a beautiful rose that we’ve tamed, they become a valet who exists to serve us.
Regardless of which set of ‘horsemen’ you look at, the reality of marital breakup stares us in the face everyday. We may see friends, family and coworkers walking down a dark path to destruction. Reach out to them with hope and honest love. Choose to focus on your own marriage for the better. Resolve to take the high road with your spouse. Don’t become just another statistic.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again--rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.